Owen F. Dolen Park

Owen Dolen Recreation Center

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

In 1925, Owen F. Dolen (c.1864-1925) was asked to speak at a ceremony in this park, then known as Westchester Square. The occasion was the unveiling of a new monument to the neighborhood soldiers who died in World War I (1914-1918).  Dolen was a well-respected educator and life-long member of the community, and had spearheaded the campaign to place the memorial at the square. He gave a rousing twenty-five minute speech, bowed to the crowd, sat down, and died of a heart attack just minutes later. On April 30, 1926, the Board of Aldermen (now the City Council) voted to name the park Owen F. Dolen Park in his memory.

While the park is no longer named Westchester Square, the surrounding area still bears the name. Originally the site of a Dutch outpost in the 1600s, the area developed into a village called Oostdorp, meaning “East Village,” referring to the colony’s location to the east of Nieuw Amsterdam.  When the English took over the area, they renamed the towns accordingly; Nieuw Amsterdam was renamed New York, after the Duke of York, and Oostdorp was renamed West Chester, in recognition of its location west of the New England colonies.

Later, Westchester Square emerged as a shopping hub, in part thanks to the extension of the Lexington Avenue-Pelham Bay subway (now the 6 train) to the area in late 1920s. The subway station is a striking piece of architecture, decorated with colorful tiles in a geometric pattern and stained-glass windows by famed artist Romare Bearden (1911–1988).

The first piece of the park property, the corner by the war memorial, was acquired by the City in 1907.  The rest of the property was acquired in 1909, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) expanded a 1927 comfort station into a branch of the New York Public Library in the 1930s. The original building still bears the inscription “New York Public Library.” 

In 1982, that building was expanded and converted to its present use as the Owen Dolen Golden Age Center, as well as the offices for Parks District 9 of the Bronx. The new addition, with its bold triangular façade over the entrance, was designed by John Ciardullo Associates. Today, the Center serves as a social center for the community, with special programs and trips for seniors. Programs for teens were added later, including a tutoring program. The center attracts local residents of all ages participating in activities from aerobics classes to after-school programs.

The park contains two pieces of sculpture, a 15-foot-high granite pylon at the corner of East Tremont Avenue and Lane Avenue that honors Westchester residents who served in World War I, and The Seat (1987) by David Saunders, which depicts a chair with an open book underneath.  Until recently, the park had been split in the middle by Benson Street. The street was closed in 1993 and has been replaced by vegetation to expand and improve the park.

In 2013, NYC Parks constructed several spaces to accommodate outdoor events and community programming, including a large plaza along Westchester Avenue. The park’s lawns were expanded and consolidated, and its pedestrian paths were streamlined and repaved. The project also included new seating, trees, ornamental plantings, additional lighting, improved drainage, and fencing.

Directions to Owen F. Dolen Park

Know Before You Go

Recreation CentersOwen Dolen Recreation Center

Due to upcoming construction on the roof of Owen Dolen Recreation Center, the center will be closed to the public for approximately 18 months, starting on Monday, April 8, 2019. This work will address long-needed repairs and improvements. It will require extensive scaffolding along the exterior of the building; will require staging of building materials on the property; and will impact pick-up and drop-off at the recreation center. This work and related closure, will also impact summer camp at this location. We are committed to the needs of this Bronx community, and it is important to note that NYC Parks Summer Camp and general member-based access will be available to Owen Dolen Recreation Center members at nearby centers, including St. Mary's, St. James, Williamsbridge Oval, and Hunt's Point. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time. Should you have questions or comments, please feel free contact the Owen Dolen Recreation Center and Bronx Recreation leadership at 718-822-4282.

  • Building
  • Owen DOlen Golden Age Center

Was this information helpful?